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Home arrow Law arrow Prisons and Punishment in Texas: Culture, History and Museological Representation


In conclusion, this chapter has sought to investigate the suggestion that Texan cultural memories might have dimensions which could help explain the Texan commitment to harsh punishment, a suggestion implied by Clemons (2008), Flores (2002) and McEnteer (2004). It has been argued that the Old West and the Alamo, as cultural stories, do indeed resonate with the toughness narrative as found in Texan punishment museums. Moreover, unlike other cultural (re) presentations of punishment, the Texan punishment sites were found to evoke the war on crime metaphor by way of military-style displays which commemorated the death of symbolic soldiers. So whether one looks to the tourist sites associated with punishment or the tourist sites associated with the Alamo memory, Texas is telling stories about its own willingness to engage in tough combat if threatened.

Further to this, Garland (2010) has argued that in the Southern states punishment has become a pawn in ‘culture war’ between the Northern and Southern states of America. As a result, the meanings of harsh punishment in general and the death penalty in particular have been redefined as symbols of ‘popular democracy’ and ‘states rights’ in the South

(as opposed to the North). Punishment is spoken about in a political and cultural context which is characterised by a narrative of backlash. The Alamo memory is not a story about punishment but it does resonate with the narrative of backlash. The Lone Star State is a place which continually reminds Texans and tourists that Texas was once a Republic and the story of Texan independence is not only told within the state’s historical sites. The revolutionary pedagogy of ‘Texas as separate’ can be found to manifest in nuanced ways all over the state with ‘Remember the Alamo’ becoming part of the Texas state narrative. If, as Garland (2010) asserts, punishment has become part of a Southern story about a state’s ‘right’ to punishment autonomy, then nowhere will that story reverberate louder than in Texas, a state that proudly remembers a time in which it had complete autonomy not only from the North but from the whole of America.

Finally, this chapter has argued that while the Alamo and Old West memories play a significant role in constructing a unique Texan selfidentity, and do (to varying degrees) resonate with punishment-relevant narratives, they can also be understood as the initial events within a much bigger story Texas tells about itself as a place of people in the present. Within this bigger ‘story of Texas’, Texans are depicted as a special ‘breed of people’ who have an unprecedented pride in and love for their state. The Texans of today are proud not only because of their past but also because of their present. The Texan influence on a whole host of industries is used to illustrate the pioneering spirit of the Lone Star State. Texas and Texans are at the vanguard, blazing a trail toward tomorrow. The Texan commitment to harsh punishment might be both a reflection of a desire to appear tough and a desire to be a bold pioneer within the American punishment industry.

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